BRING ON 2021

Here are 3 convincing reasons 2020 can't end fast enough for Houston fans

There's always next year. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

What the hell happened, Houston? Wasn't it just one season ago …

The Astros were defending American League champions, only a stunningly dumb manager's decision (I'm talking about the decision being dumb, but if you read that as the manager being dumb, go with it) from winning the World Series.

The Texans won the AFC South Division as usual, and with supremely gifted quarterback Deshaun Watson blossoming into his prime, J.J. Watt returning to full brilliance, it was full steam ahead for the playoffs and a bright future.

The Rockets were the one outside team that had a shooter's shot at toppling the Los Angeles LeBrons. With Russell Westbrook added to the Rockets' firepower, Houston was poised for a run at its first NBA title since Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler a generation ago. Yes, it's been a quarter-century since the Rockets' parade in downtown Houston.

And now?

The Astros are coming off a season with their best pitcher sidelined with Tommy John, their even better pitcher gone for Yankees blood money, their manager and team president suspended and fired for cheating, their best hitter and second-best hitter flirting with other teams in free agency, and their top reliever's whereabouts unknown. No shock, the Astros finished the 2020 regular season with a losing record.

Things aren't looking up. Free agent George Springer is in line for a Fort Knox deal from New York or Boston or anywhere but Houston. Michael Brantley may or may not be an Astro next year, the smart money is on not. Shamed team president Jeff Luhnow is suing the team for millions and millions. Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are coming off down seasons. First baseman Yuli Gurriel went into the dumper. Yordan Alvarez, their slugging 2019 Rookie of the Year played only two games in 2020. The Astros are targeting free agents, who in each case, are statistical downgrades from the player they'll be replacing. The 2021 Astros won't have a single player who received a single vote for MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year or Fireman of the Year this year. No Gold Glove winners, either. Although, come on, did nobody watch Carlos Correa this year?

Over the past 12 months, the Texans fired head coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Bill O'Brien. Team owner Cal McNair probably wished he had given more power to O'Brien so he could fire him from that, too. O'Brien did stick around long enough to trade superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a button and pocket lint. The Texans are a disastrous 2-6 with both wins coming against the even more disastrous Jacksonville Jaguars.

The greatest and most beloved Texan ever, J.J. Watt has made it clear that he wants out of Houston, and fans are rooting for the Texans to trade him. In the words of John Lennon, things "can't go no worse," right? Wrong, the Texans just fired vice-president of communications Amy Palcic, possibly their most popular employee. The reported reason, she didn't fit into the Texans' "culture." That word will come back to haunt the Texans when Palcic drags them into court. "Mr. Easterby, please tell the jury exactly what the Texans' 'culture' is."

The Rockets are a hot mess, who went cold from 3-point land in the playoffs – again. Veteran head coach Mike D'Antoni, who had the best winning percentage of any coach in Rockets history, and coveted general manager Daryl Morey have resigned (for lack of a better word). In both cases, they're being replaced by first-timers. Are the Rockets rebuilding? They're not.

Superstar (again for lack of a better word) Russell Westbrook is demanding a trade. He has $130 million left on his contract. Westbrook never really fit the Rockets' mold (the exact right word). Nobody depends more on three-pointers than the Rockets and Westbrook is an awful three-point shooter. Explain why you traded for him again? Danuel House and Eric Gordon don't like the way they're played. P.J. Tucker, 35, wants a lot more money. Austin Rivers is headed out the door. That leaves Rockets scoring machine James Harden, and if you listen to those blabbers on ESPN, he needs to go, too. No word on whether mascot Clutch the Bear is looking for loopholes in his contract.

Houston used to be a shining city on the hill for its smoothly functioning teams with winning records, admired front offices and love affair with fans. Now we're Detroit. Sports talk stations need to hire a special person just to push the bleep button. You can't tell the players with a scorecard. No doubt, 2020 will go down as annus horribilis for Houston sports. This is what rock bottom looks like.

So let's put on our coal miner's hat and dig deep for something positive to say about Houston's sports teams in 2020.

Got it! Dallas was even worse. That sort of makes the whole crappy year worth it.

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Here's why the Texans will make the playoffs under Lovie Smith

1. The Houston Texans had a mentally tough practice Saturday. The team has worked a lot in pads and Lovie Smith noted the days starting to build up on them during this practice. The head coach said this is a good practice because it is like the fourth quarter of the games the team will end up playing.

2. Davis Mills threw one of the best passes he has thrown all camp on Saturday. In a red zone drill, he dropped back and whipped a pass between two defenders into the tightest window he has had all camp. Nico Collins hauled in the threaded pass for a score.

3. A few reps later Davis Mills struck again. With traffic from linebackers and defensive backs, he found Chris Conley for a score. It wasn’t as tight of a window as the first one, but Mills snapped it off nonetheless.

4. Pharaoh Brown made something hard look very easy on Saturday. With Mills rolling out and tossing the ball to Brown in the back corner Brown hauled in a one-handed catch and had both feet down. Touchdown. Brown then acted like it was no big deal.

5. Pharaoh Brown has had a wonderful camp. Lovie Smith named him the starting tight end. The thing that really jumped out to me today is he makes his work look easy. He isn’t straining to excel in his opportunities. The good ones always make it look easy and it has looked easy for Brown so far.

6. Rookie linebacker Christian Harris is on the shelf for a few days. He joins fellow rookie Kenyon Green as players who are injured. Max Scharping played left guard with Green down. Wide receiver Phillip Dorset practiced while veteran wideout Chester Rodgers did not.

7. Roy Lopez flashed again today. While Friday was about the rushing attack and Lopez made his presence felt at defensive tackle, he got into the pass rush Saturday. Lopez would have had a bone-crushing sack in a live rep.

8. Ross Blacklock hasn’t been consistent. A statement like that is good and evil. There are some plays where Blacklock looks like he isn’t a factor. I watched one today. A play later he had what would have been a sack on the play. He’s a player to watch in the preseason games closely.

9. Don’t expect to see Derek Stingley in the preseason opener next Saturday. Lovie Smith wouldn’t commit to the rookie cornerback playing in the preseason. Smith did say Stingley is on track to play week one in the regular season.

10. Brevin Jordan has had a nice camp and should be an important piece for the team. Jordan had a bad drop in 7-on-7 drills that he was beating himself up over for a few minutes. That was out of the norm. He’s been used a lot and will be on the field a bit it seems for the Texans.

11. Brevin Jordan also rattled off a few contenders for the quote of the day. He exclaimed he had taken care of himself this offseason and he finally had abs. He also revealed he’s quite the fisherman and once caught a 125-pound tuna. When asked what he did with the tuna Jordan laughed and said “RIP tuna!”

Listen to Cody Stoots weekdays afternoons 3-7pm on his show "The Wheelhouse" live on ESPN 97.5 + 92.5 FM or anytime on demand at the podcast here.

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